Sunday, 30 March 2014

Short reviews

This post is going to be different from the last one, since I'm new to this business of Internet Web Logs and haven't quite worked out what style suits me best. I buy a lot of comics every month, and while not all of them are worthy of an in depth review, many of them would improve your life by being in your pull list. To that end, I'm going to run through some new comics that I bought recently, focusing on single issues rather than a whole story, and tell you what I thought of 'em. These aren't so much my current favourites as an rough cross section of my current reading habits. That said, I'll mostly be saying good things, because I don't tend to keep picking up books that let me down.

We'll save the spite for my upcoming coverage of SMALLVILLE SEASON 11: LANTERN, which is a real thing that exists.

RAT QUEENS #5 - Kurtis J. Wiebe and John "Roc" Upchurch, Image

Guys, I'll be honest with you. I don't know how to describe this book without making it sound like I'm being paid by the publisher. It has the perfect setup - an all female band of hard drinking adventurers in a D&D style world - and unlike most high concept books it pays it off in spades. It's fast, it's funny, it's bawdy but also extremely sex positive, and every one of the four lead characters is engaging and likable in their own messed up way. On top of all that, art is kinetic and jagged in just the measure. The only caveat I would offer is that it's extremely violent - if you don't like the idea of the adorable rogue waving daggers with a troll eyeball skewered on the end of each one, then it might not be for you. This is the penultimate issue of the first story arc, and I'm eager to see what comes next for this band of misfit heroines.

BLACK SCIENCE #4 - Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera, Image

This one is a bit of an odd duck. The art is fantastic and the monster designs are extremely creative, but the premise is basically Sliders With Unlimited Budget, and so far it hasn't done much more than that. I get the feeling that the protagonist is meant to be a dashing asshole in the mould of John Constantine, but so far there's been too little dashing and too much asshole. I'm sticking with it for now, mostly because the dimension hopping gives Matteo Scalera the chance to draw an amazing range of creepy alien races every issue - something that he excels at - but going forward it might find itself slipping into the Maybe pile.

Also, the implied girlflesh on the cover totally misrepresents the contents of the issue, so that's a bit weird.

ROCKET GIRL #4 - Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder, Image

Rocket Girl is another comic with a deeply familiar premise - a cop from the future who comes back in time to the present day - with a number of twists on the formula; chief among these are the fact that the cop in question is a 15 year old girl, and that she has no interest in a secret identity and a LOT of interest in having jetpack chases through the skies and subways of 1980s New York. The art is bright and kinetic, with a rough unpolished look that actually adds a lot character, and protagonist DaYoung is peppy and likable. My only reservation at this stage is that the series is starting to drag a little; it's four issues in and it still feels as though the pieces are being laid out on the board, when we really should have a lot more narrative momentum by now. Still a great read, though, and one I'm sticking with for the foreseeable future.

BATMAN #29 - Scott Snyder and Dustin Nguyen, DC Comics

I've made no secret of the fact that I love Snyder's work, both on Batman and elsewhere, and the Zero Year epic is my favourite entry in his run on this book so far. Nguyen's art is also among the best currently appearing in comics, the same perfect blend of dark and cartoony as Snyder's writing. I actually plan to put together a bit of a retrospective of what he's done with the old Caped Crusader once this story wraps up, but I wanted to check in here as well. Despite featuring floods, death and a man made entirely of teeth, Zero Year has wound up becoming a neon bright reworking of Batman's origin, showcasing a brash and arrogant Batman who genuinely feels younger than the character we know. This issue features both an extended flashback to The Night His Parents Die that manages to not feel shoehorned in AND some hot blimp-on-blimp action, so it's basically everything that you could hope for from a Bat-book. This story has been a heck of a lot of fun, and is proving to be exactly what the franchise needs to shake it out of its grimdark rut.

VELVET #4 - Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, , Image

I have a mixed relationship with superspy stories. I love tales of international intrigue, the faster and more cynical the better, but tales of a single superhuman agent tend to veer into territory which is silly, fascist, or as in the case of FREEDOM CLOWNS*, both. Velvet walks a fine line - protagonist Velvet Templeton is shown fighting her way out of more than a few seemingly impossible situations over the course of the tale so far, but she tends to end up looking pretty battered by the end of it. More importantly, the setting is extremely morally ambiguous, with the various criminal organisations and intelligence agencies portrayed as being just as ruthless and packed with bastards as each other. Velvet herself is a sufficiently interesting lead to keep me coming back - just the fact that she's a fully capable woman in her late 30s/early 40s is pretty unique in comics - and the central mystery is intriguing enough to be worth unraveling. Brubaker knows his tropes well, and enjoys playing with them, though the "secret agent at the masquerade ball" might be too well worn for even him to inject with new life.

Lets put it this way - when I'm reading Velvet, I only very occasionally wish I was reading Queen and Country instead, and that's probably the nicest thing that I can say about a spy comic.

SAGA #18 - Brian K Vaugn and Fiona Staples, Image

Seriously, do I even need to cover this? Saga is the best comic on the stands today, across every genre, every publisher, every everything. If you're not reading it already then you're wasting your time with blogs, and if you don't like it then I don't know what to tell you. You probably ate paint as a kid.

These are all available via Comixology, or if you prefer something that you can roll up and discipline your cat your, at Better Comic Stores Everywhere.

* not a real comic, but I work cheap...

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